The unspoken illness

1 in 4 people have a mental illness, and no one wants to talk about it.  

mental illness, mental health, stigma against mental illness

If 1 in 4 people have a diagnosis, then it makes sense that just about EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is effected by mental illness through a family member or friend. People who are mentally ill aren't necessarily walking around talking to themselves.  That's a stereotype perpetuated by lack of understanding and socially irresponsible media. This includes movies and TV shows that depict mental illness in a terrible (and wrong) light and pop culture that misuses the language.

Let's be clear - being sad doesn't mean you are depressed, being moody doesn't mean you have bipolar disorder, and being eccentric doesn't mean you have schizophrenia.  Choose your language carefully.

 

"People who live with mental illness are among the most stigmatized groups in society." World Psychiatry, Oct 2008; 7(3) 185-188

"The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation." ~Glenn Close

"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shames us all." ~Bill Clinton

It's tough enough living with a mental illness.  When you have to try to hide it and function in your daily life at the same time, the task can feel insurmountable. More and more people are speaking out about their experiences with mental illness, including public figures we know and respect.  The bravery of these folks is amazing and every step brings us closer to understanding and accepting.

Mental illness isn't the flu - you don't just "get over it".  Some illnesses are caused by differences in brain biochemistry, like depression and bipolar, and often require medication as well as therapy. This is no different than having diabetes or asthma.  Some illnesses can be resolved through therapy or other personal work. They key word here is WORK; they don't go away on their own. And that's OK.  What's not OK is continuing to live in pain because you are scared someone will find out.

The next time you are at a restaurant or at the grocery store, look around you.  1 in 4 of the people around you have a mental illness, and chances are you'll never know who they are.  They look just like everyone else.

Be honest, no one is looking... How has mental illness impacted you in your life?